After a while, grinding out the miles on your tried and true neighborhood courses makes getting excited for a run on even your most favorite course virtually impossible. As the leaves on the few deciduous trees on the Cape begin to change color and leap from the trees, here are a few ideas on how to add some spice to your daily runs.
Run the course backwards. Take one of your daily courses and run it in reverse. As well as turning all the up-hills into down-hills (and unfortunately making all the down-hills up-hills along the way), you will see the course from a new perspective. One holiday season, I ran one of the courses that I normally run several times a week, backwards and discovered a bright blue star of lights and a bright white peace symbol on the sides of two houses facing me. I had never seen them running the other way.
Introduce a friend to one of your favorite training courses. If you have a friend that runs, take them along on one of your courses or go visit one of theirs. There’s no feeling quite like sharing that hill at mile 7.
Run one of your favorite race courses by yourself at a completely different time of year. That race course you ran in the middle of July with 2000 people will have a completely different character in January. Allow for some time to look around and next year, when you’re dying of dehydration at the 5th mile, imagine the course is still covered in snow that freezes your toes with every step.
Splice a few of your training courses together. Joining a few short courses together to make a longer run tends to make the long run a little more endurable. In addition, the endorphins at 10 miles will make the course look a lot different than it does at 3.
Drive somewhere new and explore. Hop in the car and drive 30-45 minutes from your regular running routes. Then run a few miles somewhere that you’ve never run before. If you go on business (or pleasure) trips, be sure to get out and explore. Its the best way to get to know the place and the people that you’re visiting.
Run with your kids. For your kids, every run is on a new course. See what running looks like through their eyes.
Leave the watch at home. If you always train with the chrono attached to your wrist, leave it at home. Instead of keeping your eye on your time, take a look around and see what you’ve been missing.
Run a track workout. If you’ve never run on a track before, find a group that does a weekly track workout and join them for a few runs. As well as giving you a very accurate way to judge your pace and perceived exertion, you’ll find a number of nuances in track running that don’t exist on the roads. For a real challenge, tack on a pair of spikes and try to keep from falling over.
Take to the woods. If you run on the roads all the time, find a nearby trail and explore. Its gentle on your joints and you might stumble over some flora or fauna. But watch out for bicycles, bears, or scorpions, depending on your latitude.
Find a group to run with. Its a great way to catch up on events of the day (or week, or month), run places you’ve never run before, find out about local races, commiserate about your most recent running injuries, chat about healing remedies, and in general, make running less like work and more fun.
So, you’ve been running hard all spring and summer and are in a rut. Now’s the time to experiment, try new things, and take a little time off. And pretty soon, your old courses will be refreshing old friends.